DPR’s significant experience in life sciences, one of our five core markets, is driven by a deep respect for the countless men and women who manage the world’s laboratories and research facilities, bringing life-saving medicines and therapies to market. Find project stories and news from our life sciences experts here.

August 14, 2018

From Bioreactor to Learning Tool: Project Engineers Gain Hands-On MEP Experience Through Project Tinman

Working together at a confidential life sciences project in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, project engineers Devin Kennedy and Ben Salsman noticed that their customer was disposing of a few old bioreactors. Designed to grow and develop cells to extract proteins that are used to create injectable medicines, bioreactors are an important aspect of life sciences–a piece of equipment that engineers usually learn about out of a book.

Wanting to gain more hands-on MEP experience in DPR’s culture of continuous learning, Kennedy and Salsman decided to turn the discarded 60-liter bioreactor into a learning tool. With a core team of DPR’s technical experts, they brainstormed what they could do, such as adding valves and instruments, building a control panel and developing a sequence of operations. They stepped up to the biggest challenge: making the out-of-service bioreactor fully functional.

To gain more hands-on MEP experience, project engineers turned a discarded 60-liter bioreactor into a learning tool. Photo courtesy of Amy Edwards

A team of 20 project engineers in DPR’s Raleigh-Durham office set out to create a physically self-contained bioreactor on one skid and understand how its components (sensors, valves, pumps, controls, wiring) interacted in a highly controlled, pressurized environment. Through hands-on workdays led by DPR experts focused on mechanical, controls and electrical aspects of the bioreactor, the project engineers gained experience from design through commissioning.

The project engineers stepped up to the biggest challenge: making the out-of-service bioreactor fully functional. Photo courtesy of Amy Edwards

Focusing on the “why,” not just the “what,” the project engineers looked at the bioreactor as a holistic system that helped them connect to DPR’s work. They gained hands-on experience with concepts including controlled automation systems, welding and wiring–all of which reappear in projects across core markets, and all of which project engineers typically don’t get to touch with their own hands.

“Knowing how the bioreactors work, and knowing how to build them through their own experiences only makes our project engineers better team members for our customers,” said David Ross, who leads DPR’s life sciences core market in the Southeast. “On a broader level, Project Tinman helped them better understand our life science customers, as well as the perspectives of trade partners and equipment manufacturers.”

The team gained hands-on experience with concepts including controlled automation systems, welding and wiring–all of which project engineers typically don’t get to touch with their own hands. Photo courtesy of Amy Edwards

What started as an idea between two project engineers has become a learning tool that will help countless more people at DPR become better builders. Photo courtesy of Amy Edwards

April 24, 2016

Roche Molecular Systems New Administrative Building is First of its Kind for the City of Pleasanton

On April 12, Roche Diagnostics celebrated the construction of its new administrative building with a traditional groundbreaking on its Pleasanton, California campus. The groundbreaking was attended by members of the project team, and key Roche executives, including the president. 

The project was awarded to DPR without competition due to our long-standing relationship with Roche and its Pleasanton campus for over 15 years. The first project was the construction of the original facility, followed by its R&D building and several tenant improvements.

Roche is working with the City of Pleasanton to be the first local building to use reclaimed water for toilets and industrial cooling. The new facility aims to have solar thermal panels for heating, and to be K6 compliant – a Roche directive to not use HFC or HCFC refrigerants. The new 70,000-sq.-ft. building is targeting LEED Gold certification with an estimated completion of January 2017.

February 21, 2016

Genentech CCP-2 Project Wins 2016 Facility of the Year Award

Congratulations to the Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, team for winning a coveted 2016 Facility of the Year Award (FOYA) in the Process Innovation category for the Cell Culture Biologics Drug Substance Plant 2 (CCP-2) Manufacturing Facility and Return to Service (RTS) project. 

Developed by the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE), FOYAs recognize the best pharmaceutical science and manufacturing industry projects in the world. The FOYA program seeks to showcase accomplishments in facility design, construction, and operation while sharing new technologies or advanced applications of existing technology. The FOYA judging team is made up of senior industry leaders with global experience across all sectors of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology manufacturing industry.

This year’s winning Process Innovation project focused on an upgrade to the original CCP-2 facility that was put into an “idle” status in 2010 and a fast-track Return to Service project that was driven by product demand levels that had tripled in recent years. 

At 450,000 sq. ft., the CCP-2 expansion to Genentech’s Vacaville, CA facility makes it one of the largest biotechnology fermentation facilities of its kind in the world. The CCP-2 facility includes manufacturing and support space, which houses some of the largest scale cell culture drug substance production equipment in the industry, including 8 x 25 KL production reactors. 

This project took an innovative approach to process and equipment design to improve the facility’s reliability and efficiency. Examples include: highly automated CIP systems, buffer concentrates, buffer bags, and in-line concentrates, as well as a centralized resin slurry and delivery system. 

Process innovations include: 
•    High titer yields at the largest bioreactor scale used in the industry, 
•    The conversion of downstream processing, and 
•    An all-fluid handling system to support the recovery of this higher titer output compared to the original installation’s lower titer design criteria.

Upgrading the existing CCP-2 facility to support new process technology instead of constructing a new building saved the owner $50 million. The project team also finished two months ahead of an aggressive 15 month schedule, making this truly a project of perseverance and a testament to the terrific amount of drive, innovation, and creativity from everyone who worked on the project. 

Fun Fact: DPR Construction was the builder for original CCP-2 Manufacturing Facility and Return to Service projects. In addition, DPR also built the Genentech Oceanside Production Operations facility, which won the ISPE’s 2007 FOYA in the Project Execution category and the overall 2007 Facility of the Year award. 

March 4, 2014

Partner Profile: Talking Collaboration with SmithGroupJJR

Recently, we caught up with SmithGroupJJR’s Senior Vice President, William L. Diefenbach, FAIA, to talk about the different facets of collaboration in today's building landscape. No strangers to the concept of collaboration, DPR and SmithGroupJJR have worked on close to 50 projects together.

In this interview with Diefenbach, he discusses alternative project delivery methods, building information modeling (BIM), co-location, where innovative solutions come from, and more.

The Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)—an award-winning DPR/SmithGroupJJR design/build project—is also discussed in the article. Built on a narrow, steep and sloped site, the $85 million, 67,000-sq.-ft,. LEED® Gold research facility required teamwork and creativity in the building process.

UCSF Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building Photo courtesy of Bruce Damonte

December 20, 2013

Topping Out of Hillside Laboratory: UC Berkeley Computational Research and Theory (CRT) Facility

In December, the UC Berkeley Computational Research and Theory (CRT) Facility team celebrated with a traditional topping out ceremony, where a beam signifying the end of the structural steel erection was put in place. 

The team watches the topping out ceremony

Building on the slope of a hill with access on only one side presents many challenges requiring tight coordination and planning from the team. The project began in April 2012 and is slated to be complete in late 2014.

The new $103 million facility builds on the groundwork of Berkeley lab’s tradition of information sharing and expertise while offering an optimal environment to advance research. Key research areas expected to benefit from the CRT Facility include global climate change research, fusion energy research, biological and environmental research, basic energy science and astrophysics. 

The team signs the beam

The last beam is lowered into place

The beam lands in place (Photos courtesy of Albert Lee and Brett Thompson)

The building will be approximately 140,000 gross sq. ft. and accommodate approximately a 300 person staff. There will be a computer floor to accommodate two high-performance computing systems, a visualization lab for modeling and viewing simulations, an electric feeder from Grizzly Peak substation to provide 7 megawatts (MW) of power capacity to serve the initial high-performance computing and office loads, and administrative support space with offices, workrooms and conference space.

The project is aiming for LEED Gold certification. 

September 11, 2013

UCSF Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building Wins CBE’s Living Building Award

The University of California, San Francisco's (UCSF) Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building won the Center for the Built Environment's (CBE) Livable Building Award.

CBE's Livable Buildings Award recognizes projects that meet the highest standards for providing healthy, productive indoor environments and represent best sustainability practices. It's given to buildings that demonstrate exceptional performance in terms of resource efficiency, overall design and occupant satisfaction using CBE's Occupant Indoor Environmental Quality Survey. Check out the Regeneration Medicine Building's survey scorecard here

To meet the 24-month design and construction window required by funding, the design-build team of DPR Construction, SmithGroupJJR and Forell/Elsesser Engineers was chosen for the project along with Rafael Viñoly Architects PC as the design architect. With little space available for expansion, the project team was challenged with designing for and building on a narrow, steep and sloped site. Crews had to wear rock climbing gear just to combat the steep slope!

The result is a series of terraced floors expanding horizontally across the site, and includes both indoor and outdoor spaces. Green roof terraces impart environmental benefits and an outdoor amenity for building occupants and campus community. The team used a steel space truss system to maximize usable space below the building, and keep costs low. In addition to advancing the emerging field of stem cell research, the team used building information modeling (BIM) and integrated project delivery (IPD)

Here are just a few things that have been said about the building:

  • “The project was constructed by a team working collaboratively and skillfully to craft design solutions to issues that came up in an accelerated implementation schedule. The building was finished on time and on budget, which is a testament to the discipline, skill, and commitment of all who participated. The UCSF community is extremely excited about this new building, and the reception since it opened has been enthusiastic.” - Michael Bade, Assistant Vice Chancellor, UCSF Capital Programs and Campus Architect
  • "The essential concept of a collaborative atmosphere is beautifully developed in a unique way from any of our other research buildings. Open interaction spaces, where researchers naturally gather throughout the day, provide visual connectivity from one lab floor to another through the “split-level” design as well as to office/conference suites." - Bonnie Maler, Associate Dean for Research Facilities Planning, UCSF School of Medicine
  • "UCSF is a phenomenal design in terms of how they approached the site. It includes beautiful transition from building to nature, and there is a holistic story to building that made it stand out." - CBE Living Building Award jury

Photos courtesy of Bruce Damonte

Congrats to all involved!

Last year's CBE Livable Building Award went to DPR's Clif Bar Headquarters.

August 12, 2013

Team Gets Creative at Florida International University

Florida International University (FIU)’s new ultramodern 137,000-sq.-ft., $43 million Academic Health Center 4 (AHC4) exemplifies teamwork, quality and schedule control. A long-term relationship with the architect as well as the team's inventive solutions helped make the most high-tech project ever delivered to this university a success.


  • Perkins+Will (project architect) and DPR have partnered together on more than 40 projects?
  • With 10 work days lost in the first six weeks alone due to record rainfall (117 inches over 18 months), the team still completed the project on time and on budget?
  • With the rain and the site’s geographic location at just above sea level, the team used a lunar calendar to determine when tides were at the lowest level?
  • Use of pre-glazing and pre-installation shaved seven weeks off the schedule and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars?
  • It was the first project on campus to fully incorporate building information modeling (BIM), which the team used for coordination, clash detection and field improvements?

Read all about this project and how the team delivered this progressive learning environment in the latest issue of the DPR Review!

November 13, 2012

250 Guests Attend DPR’s ISPE Hospitality Event

Around 250 guests enjoyed an evening filled with more than just peanuts and crackerjacks at DPR's ISPE hospitality event at San Francisco's AT&T Park on Monday, November 12th. With many guests traveling from out of town for ISPE's (The International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering) Annual Meeting, which takes place from November 11th to 14th, the hospitality event was a great chance to meet up with colleagues from all over the country.

The fun and intimate event included live music, refreshments and a delicious buffet in the ballpark's club level.

Guests at the event caught up with one other and had the ballpark, home of the World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants, all to themselves.

Attendees of ISPE's Annual Meeting include executives from pharmaceutical companies and key government regulators. The meeting includes education sessions on the latest information in technology innovation, application and best practices in the pharmaceutical world. Additionally, there are sessions that engage regulatory agencies in discussions with the industry, building consensus around guidance, quality issues and technology application. This year's theme is "Global GMP Solutions through Innovation and Transformation."

Come visit DPR's booth (table #241) at ISPE in the exhibit hall. If tweeting about ISPE, use #ISPEAM12.

April 2, 2011

Max Planck Florida Institute Tops Out

DPR's Max Placnk Florida Institute project team plan to celebrate the new facility's topping out with a ceremony. The CEO and other institute members will be hand, as the last beam is hoisted and placed atop the structure. The biomedical research facility encompasses 6 acres in Jupiter, Florida.

February 6, 2011

UCSF Medical Center: New Stem Cell Lab

A unique addition to UCSF's Parnassus Medical Center campus, DPR's Stem Cell Lab (called the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building) is set to open next week. The 68,500-square-foot building houses UCSF's stem cell research efforts and can accommodate up to 300 professors, staff and students.

Discover more about this fascinating project by reading this SF Gate article.